Virginia Supreme Court strikes down lawsuit challenging LGBT policy

Dive Brief:

  • A lawsuit challenging the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in Fairfax County Public Schools' nondiscrimination policy was struck down in the state’s Supreme Court last Thursday, according to the Washington Blade. 
  • The county’s school board added sexual orientation in November 2014 and gender identity in May 2015, and the Liberty Counsel filed a suit on behalf of Traditional Values Coalition President Andrea Lafferty, as well as an unnamed minor arguing a state rule meant school boards could not amend their nondiscrimination policies unless the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation giving them permission.​ 
  • The lawsuit was dismissed in Fairfax County Circuit Court in March 2016 and the Supreme Court upheld the prior decision last week, maintaining that it was within the rights of Fairfax County’s school board to extend protections in the nondiscrimination policies for their public schools to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

Dive Insight:

Conflicts over state and federal involvement in nondiscrimination policies in schools came into heavy focus during the debate surrounding North Carolina’s “bathroom bill” legislation, which was repealed in late March. With a new administration that is likely to be more supportive of state legislative actions like North Carolina’s doomed bill, it is likely that more skirmishes in the debate to broaden the protections schools offer LGBT students will be fought between cities and states, like these recent cases in Virginia and North Carolina, putting districts between a rock and a hard place. 

The safest route would be to include the greatest number of protections for the highest number of students and employees within a district's purview. Not only does this help reduce the likelihood of lawsuits, it also eliminates a potential recruiting hurdle which may arise if prospective staff are turned away by a perceived hostile environment. 

Filed Under: K12